Position: Left-handed Pitcher
Few second round picks receive as much pre-season publicity as Andrew Oliver did prior to his junior year at Oklahoma State. The NCAA suspended Oliver for taking on an advisor/agent and only after a lengthy appeal, was he allowed to play for the Cowboys in 2009.
Oliver started 16 games for OSU in 2009, compiling 88 1/3 innings while allowing 92 hits and 34 walks, though he did strike out 97. The season was not what many scouts had expected from Oliver, but he still showed some overpowering stuff and poise that kept him as a high draft choice.
Oliver's sophomore season put him on the prospect map as he earned 1st Team All-Big 12 honors, and was named a 2nd Team All-American. Oliver ranked nationally in ERA and strikeouts in 2008, while also littering the Big 12 leader board. Andrew also pitched for Team USA during the summer, posting a 0.93 ERA with 24 strikeouts in just 19 1/3 innings.
Oliver wan thrown directly into the fire as a freshman at OSU, making eleven starts for the Cowboys, while tying for second on the team with six wins. Oliver had already showed well during the summer of 2007, by notching a 1.41 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 45 innings for the Wareham Gateman of the Cape Cod League.
Oliver's calling card is a big time fastball from the left side, working consistently at 92-93, and capable of touching 96 with relative ease. He has excellent late life on his heater, and he is typically able to throw it for strikes routinely. He will need to improve his ability to locate within the strike zone, but that should come with some additional time on the mound and some refinements to his mechanics.
There isn't much to get excited about behind the fastball, but there have been some flashes of solid secondary offerings. Oliver has toyed with a curveball, slider, and cutter while trying to come up with a reliable breaking ball, but none of them have showed any consistency. There are some that believe he would be best served going back to his big-breaking curveball he has showed on the Cape and with Team USA, and that could be the direction the organization heads when they get their hands on him.
Oliver has showed a solid-average change-up that has the potential to be an average Major League pitch. His arm speed is good and he gets some sink on his change, and it could be a good pitch to keep right-handers under control.
Oliver must work to keep his front side closed on his delivery, or he will continue to be hit harder like he was during his junior year at OSU. If he can keep closed, he has the potential to be a #2/#3 type starter with overpowering raw stuff.
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP AVG COL
Oliver has yet to show any signs of injury, and he has an ideal pitchers frame and build that should lend to durability going forward. His arm action is clean and he repeats his delivery well; both positives for his future health.
Oliver may be a bit of a tough sign given that he is advised by Scott Boras, but the Tigers have had good luck dealing with Boras in the past. It is safe to assume these negotiations will drag into late summer, and Oliver may be lucky to pitch for the Tigers in 2009.
Once signed, Oliver may not move as quickly as some college pitchers, but he should still be knocking on the big league door within two years; three max. Early word indicates the Tigers are still split on whether to develop him as a starter or a reliever, but I'm getting the impression they may let him start out of the gates.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.